Florida Atlantic Univ

Alabama wins national title had Nick Saban kept me, says Lane Kiffin

Alabama head coach Nick Saban looks on as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin calls a play on the sidelines against Wisconsin in 2015.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban looks on as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin calls a play on the sidelines against Wisconsin in 2015. AP

Lane Kiffin makes his debut on the FAU sideline on Friday night as the Owls open their season against Navy in Boca Raton.

Kiffin took the FAU job last December while still the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama.

“It was very important to finish what we started there,” he said at his introductory press conference.

While the two seemed to have personality clashes, Kiffin’s offensive genius was beneficial to Saban and the Tide.

Until it wasn’t.

Kiffin ran the Alabama offense in the college football semifinal win over Washington yet was let go by Saban and replaced by Steve Sarkisian — who, coincidentally, had earlier replaced Kiffin as head coach at USC.

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Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin throws a pass during warmups before the Tide played rival Auburn on Nov. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa. Butch Dill AP

Alabama lost to Clemson in the national title game as Kiffin watched from the Boca Raton Resort and Club as he told the Washington Post in a recent feature.

“It was rough,” Kiffin told the Post. “It got really rough when you watched the game. ... You lose by one play, one second, it’s natural to think, ‘Okay, you could have made a difference.’

“If they won, it wouldn’t have mattered. I would have just been happy for them. That was the hardest part, how it ended.”

THE WASHINGTON POST: College football has a question for Lane Kiffin at FAU: Will you ever learn?

Kiffin told the Post he feels Alabama would currently be the two-time defending national champions had Saban kept him on as the Tide would have beaten Clemson.

“I do,” Kiffin said. “It’s no disrespect to Steve. No matter who it was, you’ve been there all year long. You’ve been there for the quarterback. You’re all he knew. You were undefeated together. We’ve won [26] straight games together. You feel like, okay, it’s different. ... It would have made a difference.”

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Alabama opens the season atop the national polls and plays No. 3 Florida State in Atlanta on Saturday night.

Sarkisian only lasted one game as Alabama’s offensive coordinator as he left for the Atlanta Falcons in February amid rumors he and Saban weren’t getting along.

Saban hired former New England Patriots assistant Brian Daboll to run Alabama’s offense.

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards

TONIGHT: NAVY AT FAU

▪ When, where: 8 p.m.; FAU Stadium, Boca Raton.

▪ TV: ESPNU.

▪ Scouting report: Navy went 9-5 last season but ended the year with losses in its final three games — including a 21-17 loss to Army which was the Midshipmen’s first loss to the Black Knights since 2001. The Owls are playing their first game under new coach Lane Kiffin after finishing 3-9 the past three seasons.

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